In the days before the arrival of deadly Hurricane Sandy, you crawl up to the top of a mountain junk yard amidst a motley collection of machine tools and 3000 rotting automobiles to claim your prize – a 13” “Roundhead” LeBlond Regal lathe. You drag it home on a trailer, trying to persuade your wife that you aren’t a hoarder.

If you didn’t go to these absurd lengths to claim your Regal, you still need tips for sprucing up your vintage machine that could be sitting in your basement or garage covered in decades of grime, dirt and chipped paint.

Based on these stories and questions we often field from customers, we thought it would be helpful to provide some tips for repainting a lathe.


First, what type of paint do you use?

We recommend paint with good adhesion properties to cast iron and steel and solid resistance to lubrication oils and coolant.

The folks at Sherwin Williams recommend either the DTM B66-100 Series (gloss) or DTM B66-200 Series (semi-gloss), both 100% acrylic, water-reducible, corrosion-resistant coating for industrial work. The DTM B66 paint can be tinted to provide any color you desire when repainting a lathe.

repainting a lathe

Photo courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

This paint is ideal for iron and steel equipment.


As with all painting jobs, proper preparation is the key to quality and long-lasting paint finish when repainting a lathe. We recommend cleaning off the dirt and grime off your machine with an industrial cleaner.

We recommend Walter’s Uno SF, a water-based cleaner that can be diluted and won’t strip off the paint. Mix the Uno SF with warm water and spray all over your machine. Let stand 1-2 minutes and then wash off with a damp rag.

Other cheaper cleaner/degreaser suggestions might be a Royal Purple or Zep Fast 505 (a 32-oz bottle can be found on Amazon for under $6).


If your lathe has stubborn rust, you may want to use ospho, a rust-inhibiting coating. Check out these directions from ospho.com on applying this coating:

Merely remove loose paint and rust scale, dirt, oil, grease and other accumulations with a wire brush – apply a coat of OSPHO as it comes in the container – let dry overnight, then apply whatever paint system you desire. When applied to rusted surfaces, OSPHO causes iron oxide (rust) to chemically change to iron phosphate – an inert, hard substance that turns the metal black. Where rust is exceedingly heavy, two coats of OSPHO may be necessary to thoroughly penetrate and blacken the surface to be painted.

You can also use an aircraft paint like Zip-Strip that is available at any paint shop as a stripper.


Keep these detergents off the ways and dovetails. You might want to disassemble your lathe to facilitate the painting job.

Remember to paint in a well-ventilated space and stay clear of any open flames when using cleaners and paints.

After cleaning your Regal, apply the paint that we suggested above carefully with a brush.

You may want to prime with spray paint. Remember, when using spray paint, apply with several thin coats instead of one heavy coating.

Most likely, you haven’t claimed your Regal in advance of a deadly natural disaster like the Practical Machinist poster above. However you acquired your machine, with these simple steps, you can give your Regal a nice touch-up.

Have additional questions on repainting a lathe? Let us know in the comments.


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